The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that Teresa Wagner will receive a new trial in the case against the University of Iowa law school, according to The Des Moines Register. Wagner sued former law school dean Carolyn Jones back in 2009 for political discrimination. Wagner claims that she was passed over for a promotion because she is a Republican and worked with groups like the National Right to Life Committee.
On the charge of political discrimination, a Davenport federal jury ruled in 2012 in favor of Jones. The jury was not able to decide if Wagner’s equal protection rights were violated.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Shields declared a mistrial in the case due to the indecision of the jury for the second count. Judges in the appeals court ruled that Shields did not properly question jurors about their decision after he dismissed them.
Following deliberation of two days, jurors told Judge Shields that they could not reach a verdict on the second count. Shields decided to reassemble the jurors minutes after dismissing them. The reason for this is that he did not question them on their ability to reach a unanimous verdict on either of the counts.
Shields was told by the jury that they unanimously ruled in favor of the law school on the charge of political discrimination, but did not reach a unanimous decision on the second charge. Shields then changed his ruling. He declared a mistrial on the second count. This led U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt to dismiss the equal protection charge and deny the appeal from Wagner for the new trial.
Wagner is now able to have a new trial with the ruling issued this week. It will be for the discrimination charge. The reason for the new trial is that once jurors are dismissed, they cannot return to give a verdict.
“In this age of instant individualized electronic communication and widespread personal control and management of pocket-sized wireless devices, we think this bright line rule is more faithful to precedent and offers better guidance than an amorphous rule that turns on whether jurors in fact became available for or were susceptible to outside influences or remained within total control of the court,” the ruling said.